Pic by Daniel Oines
All of the things we most urgently need now are not going to come unless us humans get past the repulsion we feel for each other — a repulsion which has been encouraged by the rich and middle classes. It is very urgent that we understand that humans are meant to join together on a basic level that is not the commonly accepted categories of individuals and nuclear families. We are more manageable if we stay in those categories with a dose of patriotism thrown in for good measure but we need more.
We need each other in a different way. It’s a much more diverse way and it’s not as friends and it’s not as families. It’s as something altogether different that was lost a few decades ago.
It is a category that has been made redundant, one where we are dependent upon the people around us. This is not a requirement at the end of capitalism. The food we eat, the furniture we sit on, the devices we use, the jobs we do — so often all of these things are made by other people. This is an anomaly in our history. And it’s had the effect of alienating us further from those around us.
Life is richer when you are forced to know your neighbours. But harder. It complicates matters when the world out the door is not easily made into an echo chamber of our own preferences where we want to get around us everyone who is just like us. You don’t need to like Madison or Imran down the road. If you have nothing to do with them you maybe don’t even like them anyway, for some unfathomable reason. So how would it be better if you had to spend more time with Imran because you lived in a community where you bought stuff from him and/or your kids are in school together and/or you’re on a few council committees together because you’re now living in some anarcho-syndicalist world where local communities rule themselves (this is my daydream, you see :))
Sure, Imran might shit you even more than he does now even though you don’t know him. If forced to spend time with him it could go a few ways. You could discover that your capitalist-fuelled distrust was based on nothing except your own alienated anxiety. Imran and you might have a few things in common. But he might not be your kind of person. He might actually shit you in the flesh rather than just shit you in your biases. Or you might like him. Or a combo of these.
What you would discover, if you had to spend time with Imran in a few different places, would be a richer understanding of what it means to interact with people you don’t have a friendship with, or a family connection with, or even necessarily an acquaintance connection with, but a shared community connection with, especially if the concept of community was much broader than it is now.
Especially if the term community was not something just plastered on the front of the Bendigo Bank but was something you automatically belonged to, which gave you things like a sense of belonging, a better job you could have ever hoped for under globalised capitalism. If it gave you your food and your furniture. Maybe even Imran made your dining table.
Or maybe you made Imran his. How would you feel if you and Imran had nothing in common, and you didn’t like him much, but you had made him his dining table and you knew he sat at it every night with his family and ate?
It would surely soften you a little around the edges when it came to being able to think about Imran not with contempt and dismissal because under capitalism there is no need for you both to have any kind of connection at all. But you would think of him differently. Not as a peripheral to you but as a member of your community. And if your view of Imran had expanded even a little so you could actually see him as a human living in your community, maybe even selling you some of his pomegranates, then everyone else would also be seeing you in broader terms.
And isn’t this partially why we are paranoid when we see Madison and Imran now? We know that we are just as indispensable to them as they are to us. Non-entities. Certainly not the multi-faceted, complex, very fragile beings we know ourselves to be but something else. Something flatter. We know that our neighbours have learners to see not with the eyes of a fellow human sharing a community, but in a blinkered way now, the way of the neoliberalist.
It wouldn’t be surprising if all the elites of the world were quite all right with this level of depletion experienced by humans round the world. They must feel how weakened we are, how held in place by the hefty, but brittle, status quo. They seem to be quite happy to let it crumble, to let authoritarianism rise around the world while people go hungry on multiple levels that we are not evolved to cope with, and certainly when we know that we do not live in a world that is dependable but one which has sliced and diced us into fragmented bits who lack the strength to make a change.
That strength lies elsewhere and we must move towards it. We don’t even have to like each other. But we sure do need each other.